Local TD, Denis Naughten has questioned the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton on plans to close community welfare clinics in Keadue, Ballinlough & Roosky, pointing out that “with the lack of public transport, this decision will cause additional financial hardship for families”.
Speaking in the Dáil last week, Denis Naughten stated that “families in the Keadue area are now faced with a 44km round trip to access the community welfare officer in Boyle”.
For those in Roosky, they have to travel to Dromod, but we have already lost the daily bus service between both villages and the Ballinlough clinic which is now being transferred to Castlerea, is now facing the loss of its bus service.
He highlighted the fact that relocating these services to towns 44km away is pointless, if there is no public transport available, thus causing additional financial hardship to families who are forced to access the community welfare service.
“It must also be remembered that many other community welfare clinics were relocated to Roosky, Ballinlough & Keadue in the past number of years, so the distances that people now have to travel is far greater and leaves these clinics far less accessible” continued Denis Naughten.
“For many families, they only seek out the services of a community welfare officer, when they are in serious financial difficulty. Being forced to have to find the money to hire a taxi will leave this service out of the reach of the genuine cases that really need it”.
See copy of Dail contribution below:
Wednesday 4th March 2015
Denis Naughten TD: While I am on the issue of round trips, I received a letter today from the Midlands North West Division where again we are seeing the closure of more community welfare officer clinics. The community welfare officer provides a very valuable service. The system is meant to be flexible, particularly for people who are in difficult financial circumstances. They may be accessing social welfare payments but also an emergency payment for a financial crisis a family faces. In rural Ireland, people will not go to a community welfare officer or, as they were known historically, relieving officer, unless they really need to. They just do not go to the relieving officer unless they have to. With the closure of these clinics, Keadew in County Roscommon is now being closed, for example, and relocated to Boyle, which is a 44 km round trip. It is the same as asking someone with no money in his or her pocket here in Dublin city centre to go to Wicklow town for assistance. However, there is no public transport to get there and the person must either get someone to assist with a lift or borrow money to get a taxi. I guarantee the Minister of State that when one goes to the community welfare officer, he or she will not give financial assistance to pay for the taxi needed to get there in the first place to make the case that one needed money for a particular emergency. That is the type of twisted logic we have at the moment.
I received notice today that three clinics are about to be closed at Keadew, Ballinlough and Roosky, respectively, in County Roscommon. We should be expanding clinics in some of these rural communities by making them available if not on a weekly basis, then on a fortnightly basis. Instead, we are seeing a reduction in clinics making them less accessible at a time when public transport is being cut. We had an announcement last week from Bus Éireann which is now looking at reducing the bus service from Athlone to Westport. That will directly affect the people in Ballinlough who want to access the community welfare clinic in Castlerea. We are making it far more difficult for people in rural Ireland to get the support they need. I urge the Minister of State to reassess the decision on these and other clinics across the country.